Memo From Microsoft: Don’t Underestimate Our Cloud Strategy
It’s about time. During Day 2 of Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2011, the software giant is finally pitching its cloud strategy to channel partners.
“Microsoft and our partners are being massively underestimated right now,” said Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill during a keynote a few minutes ago. Shortly thereafter, Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, launched into a pitch for private cloud and public cloud technologies, including Windows Azure. And Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division, offered an update on Office 365.
Hits and Misses
The Microsoft cloud pitch arrives one day after CEO Steve Ballmer gave a hit-and-miss keynote. Ballmer on July 11 successfully described Microsoft’s momentum with Windows 7 and several cloud milestones. But he didn’t really mention the mobile revolution at all — other than conceding Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 still has very small market share. And he barely touched on Office 365’s launch in June 2011. Ballmer’s keynote also spent considerable time on the growing Xbox business — at one point mentioning that a new Star Wars game would arrive in time for Christmas.
Xbox may be hot, but it’s time for Microsoft to get on message with partners. And that finally happened today (July 12) during the Tuesday keynotes. Roskill said more than 20,000 partners have participated in the Cloud Essentials and Cloud Accelerate partner initiatives, which train VARs and MSPs to offer Office 365 and other solutions to end-customers.
To qualify for Accelerate, partners need to have at least three customers with a combined 500 cloud customer seats or greater. More than 500 partners are now in the Accelerate level, Roskill told me last night. “But we want to take it into the thousands,” he added.
Roughly 50,000 people have signed up to test Office 365 since the cloud service’s launch since June 28. Also, 200,000 customers and partners signed up for the Office 365 beta earlier this year, according to Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office division. “We doubled the number of cloud partners in the past year alone,” said DelBene. “We will be the leaders in cloud productivity in the same way we were the leaders of on-premise productivity.” Microsoft will need partners to achieve that success, DelBene said.
Don’t Forget Azure
Meanwhile, Nadella said Windows Azure now has one year of progress under its belt, with tens of thousands of customers running in the Microsoft public cloud. Contributing Associate Blogger Matt Weinberger will be providing more Azure insights on Talkin’ Cloud soon.
In the meantime, I must admit: I’m a long-term believer in Windows Azure. In some ways, I believe Azure has been off to a slow start. Microsoft has quietly paid some ISVs to port their applications over to Azure, Talkin’ Cloud has heard. But long term, I do believe Azure is Microsoft’s strongest cloud play, since it will allow partners to develop their own branded intellectual property that can run in Microsoft’s cloud.
The cloud transition won’t be easy. And in some ways, I think Microsoft shoots itself in the foot talking about too many non-channel products during WPC 2011. But ultimately I think Roskill is right: Rivals are underestimating Microsoft’s cloud strategy.